Fondue Stube

Saturday Apr. 2nd, 2011

WHEN YOU SIT down to a meal at the Fondue Stube, there are fon-do’s and fon-don’ts. I know this because Jogi, a flamboyant young man wearing lederhosen, announced it to me in his thick Eastern European accent as I unceremoniously dropped my bread into a bubbling pot of deliciously melty cheese: Fon-don’t number one.

Other fon-don’ts, Jogi informed me, include touching your teeth to the fondue stick, throwing your pot of boiling oil at your dinner partner, and being too serious. The penalty for a fon-don’t? Kissing your neighbor or buying the next round of drinks – “punishments” that helps illustrate the spirit of the fon-do’s: fon-do sing at the table, fon-do make a fool of yourself, and fon-do have a good time. Most importantly, fon-do complement Jogi on how cute his bottom looks in a pair of leather shorts – it will earn your dinner team tons of extra points.

Yes, your dinner team. Because when you dine at the Fondue Stube, it’s not just about cooking your food piece-by-piece in a pot of boiling oil or broth.  It’s not even just about friendly competition between tables (team Edelweiss vs. team Schnitzel vs. team Glochenspiel!).  When you dine at the Fondue Stube, it’s about experiencing your meal on a whole different level. A level that involves singing, dancing, and cheering as you are brought deep into the world of Jogi (short for Jeurgen, pronounced your-gen), and Jaan (pronounced yawn), the brothers of mysterious Eastern European origin who act as the ring leaders to your interactive fondue dinner.

In a ski town, fondue is not so uncommon. Each with roots in the snowy Alps, skiing and fondue are a natural pairing, and Big Sky’s original Fondue Stube opened in the 1970s when a fondue craze was sweeping the nation. Though craze eventually faded, the recent spread of The Melting Pot fondue chain brought fondue back in vogue, and it seemed natural that Big Sky should revive the Stube for the epic 2010-2011 Montana ski season.

Still, dining at the Fondue Stube is not a common fondue experience. The atmosphere deviates far from the stiff, formal waiters who serve you at The Melting Pot chain, and Jogi and Jaan bring their charismatic characters to the forefront, coaxing people out of their shells as they urge diners to meet people from other tables, perform silly songs and skits, and join in their renditions of old 10th Mountain Division ski songs. Half-way through cooking a tender cube of elk and a tempura-covered cheese ravioli, I found myself thrust in front of the crowd, swaying as the entire restaurant joined in my rendition of The Sound of Music’s “Do-Re-Mi.” 50,000 fondue points for team Edelweiss.

At the end of the evening, over the last drips of melted chocolate on a skewered strawberry, Jaan and Jogi announced the final point tally. Team Schnitzel had won with 461,000 -and-a-half points. Their prize?  A whole, raw onion to take home with them as their very own – a huge honor back where Jaan and Jogi come from, they said.  As the onion was presented to the head of the table and team Schnitzel exploded in uproarious laughter it was clear how easy it is to follow the number one fon-do at the Stube: fon-do have a good time.

The Fondue Stube is located in Chet’s Bar and Grill at Big Sky Resort and is open from 6-10pm Thursday-Monday.  Call the Huntley Lodge concierge for required reservations ( 406-995-5806). You won’t regret it!